In Luke 11:24-28 Jesus offers his listeners a parable about an evil spirit in an effort to unveil what was at stake for the Jewish nation, if they didn’t receive him as their Messiah. First of all, there isn’t a single example in the Bible where a demoniac was healed but, afterward, became possessed again. Therefore, we need to ask if Jesus’ words have another meaning. Secondly, we need to remember that Jews in the first century thought and spoke differently than did gentiles of the same period. Jews would think and speak in pictures, but gentiles more analytically. For example, a gentile might have claimed Caesar was a great leader, but the Jews would have called David a great shepherd. A gentile might refer to a good man as someone of strong moral character, but an ancient Jew might say he was as a tree planted by the riverside, whose leaves didn’t wither (cf. Psalm 1:3).
Many commentaries interpret Luke 11:24-28 as though the parable were a literal explanation of what actually occurred. Yet, a swept and garnished house cannot literally apply to a human being. What would a real person who was swept and garnished look like, if Jesus were speaking literally? However, if Jesus spoke of the condition of the Jewish nation after the ministry of John the Baptist, the parable might be interpreted that the Jewish nation was made ready for the coming of the Messiah. Nevertheless, if the Messiah was never invited to inhabit the house, the nation would be found clean and ready, but empty of its rightful Ruler.
If we use Matthew 12:43-45 as the context of Luke 11:24-26, then Jesus is comparing the evil generation of his day to the house or the man that was “swept and garnished”. This means that although the Jews were prepared by John the Baptist to receive their Messiah, they were still mute (cf. Luke 11:14) and didn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge Jesus as their lawful King. Even when he performed great works, impossible for men to do (Luke 11:14), The miracles Jesus did should have brought the Jews to repent of their silence and praise him. Nevertheless, they remained silent, mute, with respect to receiving Jesus as their Messiah. Rather than praise him, they opened their mouths to slander Jesus, saying his miracle working power exposed him as a man in league with the Devil (Luke 11:15-16).
Therefore, Jesus pointed out that, if his miracle working power was, indeed, the finger of God working in their midst, the Kingdom of God was present for their blessing (cf. Luke 11:20). However, by refusing the blessing by rejecting Jesus as their legitimate King (Messiah), John’s ministry among them would have been wasted. They would be a clean and garnished house but would soon be inhabited by all sorts of wicked and factious leaders. They would be ruled by rebels instead of their long awaited Messiah.
The contrast in Luke 11:27 is astonishing. The men who were reputed to know the Scriptures, slandered Jesus. In fact, not one male in the crowd raised his voice to praise Jesus or take exception to what the Jewish leadership was doing. On the other hand, a lone woman spoke out in praise. Luke always presents women in his narrative in a good light. During the first century AD, Jewish women were not supposed to teach. The Pharisees even claimed they shouldn’t be taught the Scriptures (cf. Babalonian Talmud: Sotah 21b). Neither should a man speak with a woman in public (Berachoth 43b), and men were bound to praise God daily because God didn’t make him a woman (Manachoth 43b). Yet, in Luke 11:27 it is a woman, not a man from the crowd, who acknowledged Jesus’ defense of his good name and his offer to be the Jew’s Messiah, saying his mother was blessed, because she bore such a one as he.
Jesus agreed with her in that Mary, his mother, was blessed (cf. Luke 1:48). However, Jesus went on to explain why Mary was blessed. He said “…they are blessed who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 11:28). Mary was blessed, because she heard the word of God from the angel (Luke 1:30-37), and yielded herself to permit God to do his will through her (cf. Luke 1:38). In other words, although Mary was, indeed, blessed, it wasn’t so with her simply because she bore Jesus, anymore than the Jewish nation was blessed simply because Jesus was a Jew. Rather, Mary was blessed, because she received the word to God into hear heart and allowed God to perform his will through her. This was something the leaders at Jerusalem were refusing to do themselves and intimidated those who listened to what Jesus said and considered receiving him as their Lord.